Priest: I’ll never profane the sacraments by following Kasper’s proposal, no matter who tells me to do it

fr_harrison_column_graphic_0Renowned theologian and author, Father Brian Harrison, O.S, of St. Louis, Missouri, in a talk he recently gave in St. Louis on March 22, 2015, at the annual St. Joseph Dinner-Forum hosted by the group Credo of the Catholic Laity, discussed the Kasper proposal and patiently refuted it.

First, he declares:

…”the Kasper Proposal” – is, in my estimation, the gravest single moral and pastoral issue that has confronted the Catholic Church in the half-century that has now elapsed since the dispute over contraception erupted with renewed force at the end of Vatican Council II.

From the outset, he states clearly:

Like contraception, Communion for the divorced and remarried is not an issue that is, so to speak, self-contained. Rather, it is the kind of issue in which any change to the Church’s existing teaching and/or discipline would not stop right there, but rather, would have a profound and far-reaching ripple effect on other fundamentally important areas of Catholic morality and sacramental practice.

Father Harrison then calmly examines the proposal as it was put into the final Relatio of the Synod of Bishops in October 2014, namely to readmit “remarried” divorcees to the reception of Our Lord in Holy Communion, after they have undergone a period of penance, taking into account  “the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that ‘imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological and social factors.’” (Relatio, Paragraph 52).

Father Harrison shows then step by step that all these listed categories of reasons why a possible “remarriage” could be less sinful than what was described by Our Lord Himself in the Gospels are, indeed, not applicable to the specific case of the sin of adultery. He argues convincingly that someone who enters a second marriage outside the Church will do so deliberately, knowingly, not rashly, and without any overwhelming fear or sense of threat to his or her life. Nor can this new bond be convincingly described as an attachment or habit that cannot be broken.

He also points out that, by the very fact that Cardinal Kasper himself proposes a period of serious penance for those “remarried” couples, shows that he – and with him then also the penitents themselves – are very much aware of the grave sinfulness or disorder of the act of adultery.  Father Harrison points out that exactly this form of penitence should make the seriousness of the sin even more evident, which thus makes a remaining in that perilous state even worse:

…the idea of granting some Catholics permission to continue committing what they know is objectively gravely sinful, on the presumption that their defective consent will stop it from being imputable as such – would introduce a revolutionary, subjectivist premise into the Church’s moral teaching and discipline.

Finally, he also warns of the disastrous effects that such a procedure of laxity would have upon those couples who now still hold on to their marriage vow in spite of their having a troubled bond:

Catholics in valid but troubled marriages would be deprived of an important incentive to persevere and try to restore a loving conjugal relationship. The Church’s actions would speak louder than her words, and everyone would interpret her revised legislation as giving them the following ‘advance notice’: ‘It’s OK. If you’re convinced your first marriage is ‘dead’, you can go ahead and get divorced, find a new partner, and get civilly married. Then, if you can’t get the first marriage declared null and void, no problem! As soon as you have at least one child with your new partner, come to the diocesan family life center and we’ll set up a merciful penitential process for you to go through, after which you’ll go to confession, receive absolution, and be able to receive Communion happily ever after while living intimately with your civil spouse!’

Father Harrison also shows how such a lax attitude of the Church toward sin would then thereby also affect other sinners such as those living just in cohabitation without any form of marriage. He says:

Since that civil marriage, after all, is not valid on God’s sight, why not extend this new ecclesiastical ‘mercy’ to some couples who are just ‘living together’? Pope Francis himself, who I am afraid has not kept secret the fact that he personally would like to implement the revisionist proposal, has already been reported, without any subsequent denial issuing from the Vatican, as having recently sent a message to a divorced Argentinian woman who is now living in outright concubinage with another man that she has the Pope’s personal permission to start receiving Communion again. What will come next? Holy Communion for fornicators living in ‘trial marriages’?  Why not Communion for at least some homosexual couples?

Most importantly, at the end of his talk, Father Brian Harrison went on record and publicly declared that he as a priest would refuse to give absolution to “remarried” divorcees:

The inclusion of sacramental confession in the ‘penitential process’ proposed by revisionists will require from priests what I believe would be a sacrilegious abuse of the Sacrament of Penance. For they will be expected to give absolution, and thus permission for Holy Communion, to some persons who confess being in a sexual relationship with someone other than their true husband or wife, but who have no purpose of amendment; they admit to the priest their intention to continue in that sexual intimacy. And the priest will be expected to grant absolution on the flagrantly false pretext that the penitent is not and will not be in mortal sin because he or she is supposedly not giving a full and free consent to these illicit sex acts. I feel I should conclude this talk by going on record as stating that I myself, with the help of God, will never profane the Sacrament of Penance and violate my own conscience by giving a sacrilegious absolution to someone in that situation, no matter what higher authority in the Church might tell me to do so. May God, through the mighty protection and intercession of Saint Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, preserve his Church from endorsing Cardinal Kasper’s iniquitous revisionist proposal.

Cardinal Burke: Synod’s Mid-term Report “Lacks a Solid Foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium”

by Alessandro Gnocchi, Il Foglio, October 13, 2014 (Excerpts of the interview granted by Cardinal Burke to Il Foglio)

Q: What do we see happening at the Synod on the other side of the “media curtain”?

A: We see a worrisome skewing of the discussions, because there are some who support the possibility of adopting a practice that departs from the truth of the faith. Even if it should be evident that one cannot go down that path, many still encourage, for example, a dangerous openness to change with respect to the question of giving Holy Communion to those divorced and remarried. I do not see how it is possible to reconcile the irreformable understanding of the indissolubility of marriage with the possibility of admitting to Communion those who are living in an irregular situation. To do this is to act as if our Lord’s words were up for discussion when he taught that whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery.

Q: According to the “reformers” this teaching has become too harsh.

A: They forget that the Lord assures us of the help of his grace to those who are called to live in marriage. This does not mean that there will not be difficulties and suffering, but that there will always be divine assistance to face them and to be faithful to the end.

Q: But what you say is not coming out of the daily briefing from the Vatican Press Office. Cardinal Müller has also complained about this.

A: I do not know how this “briefing” works, but it seems to me that something is not working well if the information is manipulated in a way so as to stress only one position instead of reporting faithfully the various positions that were expressed. This worries me very much, because a consistent number of bishops do not accept the idea of a break with traditional Church teaching, but few know this. They speak only of the necessity for the Church to open herself up to the clamorous urging of the world as Cardinal Kasper propounded in February. In reality, his thesis on the theme of the family and on a new form of discipline with respect to the divorced and remarried is not new. It was already discussed thirty years ago. Then from this February on it took on a new life, and it has been allowed to grow in a not innocent way. But this must stop, because it is provoking the possibility of great damage to the faith. Bishops and priests say to me that now that so many divorced and remarried men and women are asking to be admitted to Holy Communion because this is what Pope Francis wants. In reality, I take note that, to the contrary, he has not expressed himself on this subject.

Q: But it seems evident that Cardinal Kasper and those who speak in agreement with him claim that they have the support of the Pope.

A: This is true. The Pope named Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate go along this track. But, as another Cardinal has said, the Pope has not given his pronouncement on all of this as yet. I am awaiting his pronouncement, which is able to be only in continuity with the teaching given by the Church through her whole history, a teaching that has never changed because it cannot change.

Q: Some prelates who support the traditional doctrine say that if the Pope should makes changes (in that doctrine) they would support those changes. Is this not a contradiction?

A: Yes, it is a contradiction, because the Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ on earth and therefore the chief servant of the truth of the faith. Knowing the teaching of Christ, I do not see how it is possible to deviate from that teaching with a doctrinal declaration or with a pastoral practice that ignores truth.

Q: The emphasis placed by the Pope on mercy as the most important, if not the only, idea that should guide the Church: does this not contribute to sustaining the illusion that one can advocate pastoral practice that is set loose from doctrine?

A: The idea is bandied about that there can be a Church which is merciful and that at the same time does not respect the truth. But I am offended by the abysmal idea that, until today, bishops and priests could not have been merciful. I was raised in a rural area of the United States, and I remember that, when I was a child, there was in our parish a couple from a farm near ours who came to Mass in our church but never received Communion. As I grew up, I asked my father why they did this. He answered my question without any affectation and in a simple way. He explained that they were living in an irregular situation and they accepted that they could not receive Communion. The parish priest was very gentle with them, showed them great mercy, and he applied that mercy in working toward the point where the couple would be living their lives in accord with the Catholic faith. Without truth true mercy cannot exist. My parents always taught me that if we love sinners, we must hate sin, and that we must do everything we can to tear away the sinners from the harmful situation in which they are living.

Q: But the reformers maintain that love, for the Church, consists in walking along with the world.

A: This is the hinge of the reasoning of those who want to change doctrine or discipline. I worry about this very much. They say that times have changed, that we can no longer talk about natural law, or of the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are make in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Q: What can a pastor say to a Catholic who feels bewildered by these winds of change?

A: This is true. The Pope named Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate go along this track. But, as another Cardinal has said, the Pope has not given his pronouncement on all of this as yet. I am awaiting his pronouncement, which is able to be only in continuity with the teaching given by the Church through her whole history, a teaching that has never changed because it cannot change.

Q: Some prelates who support the traditional doctrine say that if the Pope should makes changes (in that doctrine) they would support those changes. Is this not a contradiction?

A: Yes, it is a contradiction, because the Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ on earth and therefore the chief servant of the truth of the faith. Knowing the teaching of Christ, I do not see how it is possible to deviate from that teaching with a doctrinal declaration or with a pastoral practice that ignores truth.

Q: The emphasis placed by the Pope on mercy as the most important, if not the only, idea that should guide the Church: does this not contribute to sustaining the illusion that one can advocate pastoral practice that is set loose from doctrine?

A: The idea is bandied about that there can be a Church which is merciful and that at the same time does not respect the truth. But I am offended by the abysmal idea that, until today, bishops and priests could not have been merciful. I was raised in a rural area of the United States, and I remember that, when I was a child, there was in our parish a couple from a farm near ours who came to Mass in our church but never received Communion. As I grew up, I asked my father why they did this. He answered my question without any affectation and in a simple way. He explained that they were living in an irregular situation and they accepted that they could not receive Communion. The parish priest was very gentle with them, showed them great mercy, and he applied that mercy in working toward the point where the couple would be living their lives in accord with the Catholic faith. Without truth true mercy cannot exist. My parents always taught me that if we love sinners, we must hate sin, and that we must do everything we can to tear away the sinners from the harmful situation in which they are living.

Q: But the reformers maintain that love, for the Church, consists in walking along with the world.

A: This is the hinge of the reasoning of those who want to change doctrine or discipline. I worry about this very much. They say that times have changed, that we can no longer talk about natural law, or of the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are make in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Q: What can a pastor say to a Catholic who feels bewildered by these winds of change?

the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are made in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Will Pope Francis Allow Communion for Divorced and Re-married Catholics?

by Paul Simmons

On February 20, 2014, at the request of Pope Francis, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians, gave a controversial speech to more than 150 cardinals gathered in the Vatican for a “consistory” in preparation for the upcoming Synod on the Family in October.  In his speech, the Cardinal called on the Church to allow communion for divorced and re-married Catholics.

Divorced and re-married Catholics are prohibited from receiving sacramental communion because they are living in a state of mortal sin. The Church teaches that  marriage is indissoluble – divorce does not break the bond of marriage.  Therefore those who divorce and subsequently remarry are living in a state of adultery, and are therefore prohibited from receiving communion.  They can, however, say a prayer of “spiritual communion” instead.

Kasper, however, called into question this prohibition, arguing as follows:

Whoever receives spiritual communion is one with Jesus Christ, how then can he be in contradiction with the commandment of Christ? So, why can he not then receive Sacramental communion? If we exclude divorced and remarried Christians from the sacraments (…) do we not perhaps put up for discussion the fundamental sacramental structure of the Church?

In his speech, Kasper laid down his “criteria” for allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion:

Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’” – Matthew 5:321. if he repents of his failure in the first marriage, 2. if he has clarified the obligations of the first marriage, if it is definitively ruled out that he could turn back, 3. if he cannot abandon without further harm the responsibilities taken on with the new civil marriage, 4. if however he is doing the best he can to live out the possibilities of the second marriage on the basis of the faith and to raise his children in the faith, 5. if he has a desire for the sacraments as a source of strength in his situation, should we or can we deny him, after a period of time in a new direction, of “metanoia,” the sacrament of penance and then of communion?

The speech sparked an intense debate amongst the Cardinals, with many going public with their objections to Kasper’s proposals via interviews with the press.

Is the Catholic Church on the verge of allowing communion for divorced and re-married Catholics? Doing so would mean a complete reversal on a ruling that is as old as the Church itself. It would lead to devastating changes to the Catholic understanding of the human family and human sexuality.  It will also greatly undermine core Catholic teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage, Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Pope Francis: One Mind with Kasper?

In a March 5 interview with the Italian daily “Corriere della Sera”, Pope Francis expressed support for Kasper, praising him for his “beautiful and profound presentation” made to the College of Cardinals:

Cardinal Kasper made a beautiful and profound presentation…he confronted five points; the fifth was that of second marriages. I would have been concerned if in the consistory there wasn’t an intense discussion. It wouldn’t have served for anything. The cardinals knew that they could say what they wanted, and they presented many different points of view that are enriching. The fraternal and open comparisons make theological and pastoral thought grow. I am not afraid of this, actually I seek it. “No one is permitted to know a woman other than his wife. The marital right is given you for this reason: lest you fall into the snare and sin with a strange woman. ‘If you are bound to a wife do not seek a divorce’; for you are not permitted, while your wife lives, to marry another.” – St. Ambrose of Milan, “Abraham” c. 387 A.D.

On the day of Kasper’s lecture, Fr. Lombardi, the Holy See spokesman, said that the Pope’s words and Cardinal Kasper’s are  “in great harmony.”

It must be noted that Kasper is one of the pope’s favourite Cardinals, with many writers even calling him “the pope’s theologian”.  In his first angelus address as pope on March 17, 2013, Pope Francis publicly mentioned Kasper, praising him:

In these days, I have been able to read a book by a cardinal—Cardinal Kasper, a talented theologian, a good theologian—on mercy. And it did me such good, that book, but don’t think that I’m publicizing the books of my cardinals. That is not the case! But it did me such good, so much good…

The Pope Calls a Divorced and Remarried Woman

On April 25, 2014, in an apparent break from traditional Catholic teaching, Pope Francis was reported to have called remarried Argentine Jacqui Lisbona to say that there was “nothing wrong” in her taking Holy Communion. This despite the fact that she is married civilly to a previously divorced man. Lisbona originally wrote to the Pope to complain of the fact that she was refused Communion by her local priest, who was merely implementing the Church’s rule that unless a first marriage is annulled, Catholics who remarry cannot receive Communion since they are essentially living in a state of mortal sin and committing adultery.

Lisbona reported that in her conversation with Pope Francis, the pontiff told her: “It is an issue we are discussing in the Vatican, because a divorcee who takes communion is not doing anything wrong……There are some priests who are more papist than the Pope.”

As a result of this single phone call, the media screamed their headlines all over the world: “Fracas over divorced stirred by call from the Pope”; “Pope in hot water over personal phone calls”; “Pope tells sinner she should be allowed communion”.  If verified, the incident has widespread ramifications for the future of the Church, for here we have a sitting Roman Pontiff openly contradicting the Church’s traditional teachings on marriage.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi went in full damage control mode after the widespread media coverage, clarifying that the calls were part of the pope’s “personal pastoral relationships” and “do not in any way form part of the pope’s public activities”.  He acknowledged that media reports about the phone call have been “a source of misunderstanding and confusion”.  Finally, he emphasised that “consequences relating to the teaching of the Church  are not to be inferred from these occurrences.”

A Clear Church Prohibition

The proposals of Kasper – as well as the implicit approval of the Pope as can be gleaned from his actions (allowing Kasper to speak on the issue in front of Cardinals; calling up the divorced and remarried woman to tell her it is okay to receive communion) – are contrary to the clear teaching of the Catholic Church on this matter.

Jesus was very explicit in His teaching on divorce and remarriage:  “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mk 10:11-12).

Divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion because they are living in a state of mortal sin.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says unequivocally:“Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.”  – CCC 1385

The Catechism clearly states its prohibition in this matter:

Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions… the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists…Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence. – (n. 1650 Catechism)

Pope Pius XII recalled to the parish priests of Rome on March 16, 1946 that not even the pope has the power to dissolve the bond of marriage: “The matrimony between baptized, validly contracted and consummated, cannot be dissolved by any power on earth, not even by the Supreme Church Authority.

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical entitled Familiaries Consortio, re-affirmed clearly the Church’s teaching on this matter:

…the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.” (Familiaris Consortio, 84)

Other passages in the Bible emphasise the importance of receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord worthily:

“Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body (accepting all the doctrine of the Church and being in a state of grace in full communion with the Church), eats and drinks judgment on himself.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

Priests and Cardinals Rebuke Kasper

Many priests and Cardinals have gone public in rebuking the proposals of Cardinal Kasper. Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the supreme Canonical Tribunal of the Catholic Church), said in an  interview with EWTN TV that Cardinal Kasper was “in error”.  He says that Kasper’s proposal to allow communion for divorced and remarried Catholics was not implementable: “In my estimation as a canonist I do not think it is possible…I trust in coming days… the error of his approach will become ever clearer.”

He recalled that the teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage is clearly stated by Jesus Himself in the Gospel: “Here we’re not talking about truth that developed over time but here we’re talking about the very words of Christ himself in the Gospel in which he taught – and no one contests – the indissolubility of marriage.”

Burke revealed that the talk of Kasper was received by much opposition before the College of Cardinals: “The fact that he gave the text before the College of Cardinals does not in any way signify that it was well received by all the cardinals.”

Another Cardinal who went public with his rebuttal of Kasper was Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologne:

If the Church admits [them] to the Eucharist, she must anyway grant a judgment of legitimacy to the second union. That is logical. But now – as I asked – what to make of the first matrimony? The second, it is said, cannot be a true second matrimony, considering that bigamy goes against the word of the Lord. What about the first one? Is it dissolved? But the Popes have always taught that the power of the Pope does not reach that point: the Pope has no power over a marriage that is ratum et consummatum. The proposed solution leads us to think that the first matrimony remains, but that there is also a second kind of cohabitation that the Church legitimizes. It is, therefore, an extramarital exercise of human sexuality that the Church legitimizes. But with this, the foundational pillar of the Church’s doctrine on sexuality is negated. At this point, one could ask: so why are not free [extramarital or premarital] unions approved? And why not relations between homosexuals? “A wife must not depart from her husband.  Or, if she should depart, she must remain unmarried.” –  St. Cyprian of Carthage, “Testimonies,” c. 250 A.D.

Fr. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., St. Louis, Missouri, in a letter to Vatican historian Robert Moynihan, wrote:

The German bishops have devised a pastoral plan to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, whether or not a Church tribunal has granted a decree of nullity of their first marriage…And what of Jesus’ teaching that those who remarry after divorce commit adultery? Admitting them to Communion without a commitment to continence will lead logically to one of three faith-breaking conclusions: (a) our Lord was mistaken in calling this relationship adulterous – in which case he can scarcely have been the Son of God; (b) adultery is not intrinsically and gravely sinful – in which case the Church’s universal and ordinary magisterium has always been wrong; or (c) Communion can be given to some who are living in objectively grave sin – in which case not only has the magisterium also erred monumentally by always teaching the opposite, but the way will also be opened to Communion for fornicators, practicing homosexuals, pederasts, and who knows who else?

Who is Cardinal Kasper?

So who is Cardinal Kasper and why is he pushing for measures that will have devastating effects on the family?  Cardinal Kasper is a radical liberal who has called for a “modernization” of the church, frequently clashing with the conservative theology of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: “The church needs to take seriously the legitimate requests of the modern age.”

He has called for a radical re-examining of the Holy Eucharist – the cornerstone of our Faith.  In his book “Sacrament of Unity”, published in 2005, Kasper called on the Church to move towards the vision of a “shared Eucharistic meal” with Protestants:

The fact that fidelity to the truth makes it impossible in today’s situation for all Christians to meet around the one table of the Lord and take part in the one Supper of the Lord is a deep wound inflicted on the Body of the Lord. Ultimately, it is scandalous…

Of course, this “shared Eucharistic meal” with Protestants is simply not possible.  Doing so would mean the Catholic Church compromising its core teaching in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist through the act of Transubstantiation during the Mass.

Kasper’s latest progressive push for allowing communion for divorce and remarried Catholics is nothing less than a direct, frontal assault on the bedrock of the Catholic faith: the institution of marriage, as well as the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

German Bishops Push for Communion for Divorced and Remarried

German Bishops have actually moved forward on their own on the issue of divorce and remarriage.  In October 2013, the Archdiocese of Freiburg, headed by Cardinal Marx (who is part of Pope Francis’ Council of 8 Cardinal advisors), released a document that laid out plans to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, if they promised to enter “a new moral responsibility” with their new spouse.  The guidelines recommend that “in justified individual cases divorced should be allowed to return again to the sacraments…A personally responsible decision of conscience and a conversation with the chaplains are prerequisite.”

In response, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, published an article in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano saying that the practice of withholding Communion from those in a state of mortal sin would remain in place. This was followed by a letter to the German bishops ordering them to revisit their draft document.

The German bishops responded to this with more defiance, with Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Stuttgart saying in November they had voted to adopt the guidelines and expected them to be approved at their next plenary meeting in March 2014.

Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Stuttgart has told a group of German laity that while the indissolubility of marriage is “non-negotiable” for the Catholic Church, the German bishops are going to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, despite clear instructions to the contrary from the Vatican’s doctrinal chief.

Loosening of the Catholic Annulment Process

Another measure proposed by Kasper during his speech in the consistory of Cardinals is that of loosening the Catholic annulment process –  an explosive, potentially devastating measure that will lead to more marriage breakups – only this time, with “blessing” from the Church.  In particular, Kasper argues for a decentralisation of annulment proceedings from ecclesiastical tribunals. In order to understand the nature of this proposal, we must first understand the distinction between divorce and annulment, as well as the Church’s process for granting of annulments.

The Church prohibits divorce, but it does have a process in place to evaluate requests for annulment of marriages. There is a big difference between divorce and annulment.  Divorce is an act recognised by some states/governments that involves the dissolution of the legal marriage contract – it does not, however, dissolve marriage in the eyes of the Church, since marriage is indissoluble.

Annulment on the other hand, within the context of the Church, is a recognition that there was never a valid marriage in the first place (for example, if one of the couples was merely forced into the marriage, etc).  A Church-granted annulment, therefore, does not dissolve the marriage bond – it is simply a recognition that there was no valid marriage in the first place.

The process for securing an annulment from the Church is completely different from merely legal annulment proceedings sponsored by the State/government.  A church body headed by Cardinals and clergy, called “Ecclesiastical Tribunals”, handle the process of evaluating and studying requests for annulment.  It is a lengthy and exhaustive process, akin to a real legal court case, complete with submission of evidence, case facts, and other documents – and rightly so, in order to defend the sanctity of marriage.

Kasper’s proposal is to decentralize the annulment process, and give authority to local priests and bishops to grant an annulment to couples. Kasper said:

According to canon law the evaluation [of annulment cases] is the task of the ecclesiastical tribunals. Since these are not “iure divino,” but developed historically, we sometimes ask ourselves if the judicial way should be the only one for resolving the problem or if other more pastoral and spiritual procedures could also be possible.

As an alternative, one might think that the bishop could entrust this task to a priest with spiritual and pastoral experience as a penitentiary or episcopal vicar… Is it truly possible that the good and bad of persons should be decided at second and third hearings solely on the basis of the proceedings, meaning paperwork, but without knowing the person and his situation?

If adopted, the above measure will have devastating consequences for the Church and for the family.  It will conceivably lead to more “annulments”, since the process will be simplified, with authority for granting annulments transferred from the Ecclesiastical Tribunals to local bishops and priests.  It will likewise be prone to abuse and loose interpretation, since the rigourous process adopted by Ecclesiastical Tribunals will be replaced with the subjective judgement and interpretation of local pastors.

The Tribunals are there precisely to safeguard the sanctity of marriage and protect the core teaching that marriage is indissoluble.  Once subjectivity is introduced in the process, how are we to prevent a local pastor making an erroneous, subjective decision to grant a bogus annulment? This subjectivity will lead to errors in judgement, which will lead to de-facto granting of divorce by local priests.

Assault on the Family and the Eucharist

These two proposals of Kasper – allowing communion for the divorced and remarried, and loosening the annulment process – are nothing less than a direct, full-frontal assault on the familyIf adopted, it will mean that the Catholic Church will formally adopt a practice that is in direct contradiction to the very words of Jesus Himself: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”.  It will mean adopting a practice that will be in complete contradiction with what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has taught on the matter.

Another equally devastating consequence if the Kasper proposal is adopted is the widespread desecration of the Holy Eucharist – public sinners living in a state of adultery, who have not repented of their mortal sin through confession, will be allowed to desecrate the Eucharist by receiving the Body of the Lord in a state of grave sin.

The question is this:  Does the Pope approve of Kasper’s proposal to allow communion for people living in a state of adultery?  From his numerous actions, the answer seems to be YES.  If he does support this position, which is clearly contrary to the teachings of the Church, then we have a disturbing problem.  Canon law specifically teaches that if a Pope believed in a heretical teaching at the time of his election, as well as after his election, then his election is de-facto not valid.

Why is it that Pope Francis seemingly tolerates, if not implicitly supports, these initiatives that are being pushed forward by the rabidly liberal elements within the Vatican?  Could it be that he himself believes that Catholics living in a state of mortal sin should be allowed communion?

If the Pope does indeed support Kasper’s position, how are we to respond to a sitting Roman Pontiff who will clearly then be supporting a heretical position? Do we obey heresy? Or do we proclaim the truth from the rooftops and fight for our Faith?

The stakes are high in this issue.  It must be recalled that it was this issue of divorce and remarriage that prompted the formal schism of the Church of England from the Catholic Church: Henry VIII’s request to be allowed by the Church to divorce and remarry was rebuffed by the Catholic Church, prompting him to separate the Church of England formally from the Church – a split that remains to this very day.

When it comes to the Truth, there is no room for compromise, there is no room for re-interpretation.  The words of Jesus are clear in this matter.  Let us fight to uphold the Word of Our Lord – and to protect the family.  Let us take inspiration from the words of Pope Leo XIII, who said: “An error which is not resisted is approved; a truth which is not defended is suppressed.”